Greenway Project Ready to Go

Wallyhood welcomes Adam Lee to our merry band of writers. Adam recently graduated from college in Vermont, and has since moved westward to seek his fortune in the fertile soils of Puget Sound. His roommates chose to bring him to Wallingford for its central location between UW and the downtown and for its fine neighborhood establishments, and as he gets to know the area he appreciates their foresight more and more. He enjoys baseball and hot dogs, and can often be found running around Green Lake.

The Wallingford Greenway took another step towards completion yesterday after a walkabout with neighborhood Greenway Czar Cathy Tuttle and SDOT transportation planner Carol McMahan. The meeting was largely a formality, but it offered an opportunity to voice some final concerns before construction begins in earnest during the latter part of November. Though some minor issues still need to be worked out, Ms. Tuttle put in the real legwork over the last ten months and her determination looks set to finally pay off.

Wallingford Greenway Map

The most vexing problem confronting Wallingford and the Greenway Gang was parking. City regulations will push available spaces back 20 feet from traffic circles, in every direction and on both sides of the road, crunching out a few spaces. Fortunately, this rule is already in place at most traffic circles, and Ms. McMahan, who helps determine the parking rules for SDOT’s greenway committee, was able to find places that were closed but could be opened back up. In effect, she suggested, there will actually be a net positive in the number of spaces available to Wallingfordians. A vote will have to be taken by residents living along portions of the street to be re-opened, but it doesn’t seem like it will be difficult to get the requisite 60% approval rate. After all, as the group pointed out, everyone loves parking.

The problems still to be resolved mostly concerned visibility, and how to indicate to both cyclists and motorists that they were actually on a greenway.  Large, bicycle-shaped markings on the street itself will help, but the city is generally against putting up road signs, especially for cars crossing on North-South streets.  Painting traffic circles was suggested as a potentially viable solution, and though the City of Seattle’s official position here was murky, it didn’t seem like they would do anything to suppress the creative output of a few determined, independent citizens.

But for all practical purposes, the Greenway project is ready to be built. Surveying is in fact already done on Stone Way for a crossing island at 43rd, from where the route will flow eastward to Burke, turn north, and then continue its way east on 44th.  Flyers will also go up soon to residents living near the greenway to inform people of the new rules.  Right now, the crucial part of the project for those involved is ensuring its viability as a safety corridor where children and the elderly can ride and play peacefully.

To that end, Ms. Tuttle has helpfully composed an information-gathering worksheet that will allow the Greenway Committee and SDOT to get a feel for how effectively the project creates a safe space.  Check it out, and then sign up for a time.  It comes with instructions, but basically the goal is to have us, the residents of Wallingford, sign up for half-hour slots where we will watch intersections along the route and record the sorts of traffic that pass.  Armed with information from before and after the Greenway’s installation, the city will be able to learn what the route does well and where it could be improved, increasing the project’s long-term chances and its visibility within the neighborhood and city in general.  The half-hour slots are a great way for otherwise busy people to get involved in the Greenway project, and with a little help from the folks in Wallingford we could make the neighborhood a safer place for everyone.

  1. Gayle said,

    saw the outline for the traffic circle at 43rd & stone, like it very much as my daughter’s daycare is right there :D

    Fri, October 28 at 12:48 pm
  2. neighbor said,

    What is the plan for 44th between Latona and I-5? Looks like stop signs going in. Is there a plan for better signage for these 2 ONE WAY blocks, or are they relying on current signage? I’m not quite sure what “possible phased concrete work” means.

    Are we losing parking down here at the east end of Wallingford? Parking is already incredibly tight during the week with day-parkers walking over to the U. District for work/school.

    Fri, October 28 at 1:05 pm
  3. Michael H. said,

    Great work, guys. Looks like it will be a great addition to the neighborhood!

    My only caveat: I’m not really in favor of all the stop signs given all the research that it shows no safety above yield signs, which I think would be preferable. Some of it is summarized on Wikipedia here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_sign#In_North_America

    Fri, October 28 at 2:28 pm
  4. Cathy said,

    Pay no attention to the graphic that accompanies this article. It is a design that Wallingford community members drew up and sent with the original grant application to the city in 2009 and it is really out of date.

    Here is the Seattle Dept of Transportation (SDOT) document that was once shared with the community http://bit.ly/ts6JWX. Sorry for the scan quality but we’ve never received an electronic version. No stop signs are added anywhere on the route. SDOT is building parts B & C.

    Parking will continue to follow exactly the same rules it does now. The parking that may be impacted is the parking within 20′ of a traffic circle. While laying out this greenway, SDOT engineers noticed that while they remembered to post 20′ setbacks on circles they put in in the past few years, the earlier traffic circles are not up to code and people DO park right at the corner (which is illegal because of fire and emergency vehicle access and for visibility reasons). So this may have some impact in your specific situation, depending on whether you are next to a new or old circle. SDOT, as this article says, talked to a group of us on Tuesday (four neighbors and the head of the Wallingford Chamber) about ADDING some parking on the east side of the street between 44th and 45th.

    We’re looking forward to the greenway being built and used! Please help out getting traffic counts before (and after) the greenway goes in http://bit.ly/ucOoaw – it is an ideal short school project.

    Fri, October 28 at 2:52 pm
  5. CJ said,

    @Cathy- I wonder if you can tell us in more detail what is planned for the intersection of Wallingford and 43rd St. It doesn’t look like a stop sign or yield sign is planned (according to the scanned map), although I really think it needs one. Thanks for all your hard work on this.

    Fri, October 28 at 6:06 pm
  6. Cathy said,

    The changes to the 43rd and Wallingford intersection are, I believe, small painted green bike boxes on the street on 43rd both to the east and west of Wallingford Ave (the nearest bike box to Wallingford is a large box in Fremont as 34th approaches the Fremont Bridge).

    I do agree w you CJ that a safer intersection crossing for pedestrians — school kids and playground users especially — at Wallingford and 43rd, and at other points along the route, would be great. That happy state will come about through us getting more involved as a community.

    How can you get involved?
    *Join the Wallingford neighborhood greenway group: http://groups.google.com/group/wallingford-greenways.
    *Help out with the traffic counts soon: http://bit.ly/ucOoaw.
    *There is also (I’m feeling linkish today) http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/greenways/ a letter to the city asking for more time, attention, and investments in neighborhood greenways that you can sign.
    Thanks!

    Sat, October 29 at 9:52 am
  7. Robin Randels said,

    I spent an hour this afternoon counting and documenting the traffic moving through the intersection of 44th and Meridian and what I saw was concerning at best. Traffic moving North and South (over a hundred in an hour ) was going too fast for a neighborhood street and the most troubling part was that the majority of them never looked in any direction for cross traffic – really! Just blew through the intersections. I observed a couple of near misses. Please SDOT – protect the Greenway users and put speed bumps at the north and south entries of the intersection requiring drivers to slow down as they cross the Greenway. If scofflaws won’t adhere to stop signs or yields then something must be done to ensure that our vulnerable Greenway users are safe.
    On another note, I wonder if Meridian might be a good place to add back parking – a lot of it – on the east side of the street? It might further encourage slower speeds.
    SDOT please do this right!

    Sat, October 29 at 6:40 pm
  8. Cathy said,

    @Robin Thank you SO much for observing traffic at 44th and Meridian! Super easy and fun to do http://bit.ly/ucOoaw.

    I believe SDOT plans to add parking north and south on Meridian but speed bumps will surely help too!

    I’ve been spending most of my time observing kids, adults, bikes, dogs, and cars interacting at 43rd and Wallingford and am similarly concerned with the way cars almost never stop for kids, bikes, and adults crossing. Let’s observe now http://bit.ly/ucOoaw and see if greenways improvements help safety at this corner.

    Sat, October 29 at 8:18 pm
  9. Robin Randels said,

    Here is the communication between myself and Carol McMahan down at SDOT in response to my October 29th e-mail.

    Robin,
    I am looking at restoring the parking along the east of Meridian Ave N from N 45th St possibly all the way to N 40th St. By restoring this parking, it should also help slow down speeds along Meridian Ave N by only have 1 lane of traffic and decreased visibility due to the parked vehicles.

    Carol McMahan
    Traffic Operations, Investigations & Implementation
    Channelization Design
    Seattle Department of Transportation
    700 5th Avenue, Suite 3900
    PO Box 34996
    Seattle, WA 98124-4996

    [email protected]
    (206) 684-8562

    Carol,
    Thank you for your response. I’m sure that residents in Wallingford will be happy that visitors to the business district, movie theaters and day parkers will have more parking opportunities. However, my main concern is protected Greenway crossings.
    From my observations, installing parking may slow northbound traffic some due to the single lane but does nothing to address my observation that a majority of southbound drivers (all directions really) speed to the traffic circle and pass through without checking for traffic right or left! Less visible (small, short and narrow) children on bicycles, adult cyclists and pedestrians will be unneccessarily at risk when these people proceed unchecked through the intersection! East or west bound bicycle traffic is nearly invisible to north or southbound cross traffic. I believe that cars must be forced to slow down by installing a bump at the Greenway crossing in conjunction with large and distinctive signage identifying a Greenway crossing in order to protect the vulnerable users that the Greenway is meant to serve. Without such protection, the Greenway becomes just another road from which the targeted users, 8 to 80 year olds, are once again excluded — not to mention an accident waiting to happen. I, for one, and I’m sure that I am not alone — am unwilling to sacrifice even one child to find out. This should be done at all Greenway crossings if simply stopping the Greenway cross traffic with stop signs is ineffective.

    We have the opportunity to make this project a safe and viable transportation network usable by children going to school, parents riding with their families, and older folks going to the store or library, if we can muster the will to do it correctly. If we fail to address this type of intersection treatment, we will wind up with Greenways “lite” that render them useless. Would you be willing to send your child to school on one if the crossings weren’t protected? The gold standard model exists in Portland where stop signs control Greenway crossings and speed bumps control speeds on the Greenway. If Seattle drivers won’t stop at stop signs then we must come up with an alternate solution. Let’s get out in front of this and be innovators for transportation options for all road users. Let’s be the platinum standard for Greenways.

    Robin Randels
    [email protected].

    Tue, November 1 at 9:11 am
  10. iyqtoo said,

    Thinking strictly long term, the community’s responsibility to our kids is to teach them how to live and thrive out in the real world. I’m not convinced that teaching them it’s OK to step out into a street–ANY street–without looking very carefully in both directions and reacting appropriately is fulfilling that responsibility.

    IMHO, if you want them to live to adulthood, children need to be accompanied by a responsible adult prepared to teach them how to be safe and to expect the unexpected until they’re mature and experienced enough to do it safely on their own. Expecting to create a completely safe city street to let parents off the hook for those lessons is nothing short of wishful thinking.

    Tue, November 1 at 10:19 am
  11. Robin Randels said,

    iyqtoo,
    I am not sure where you got the idea that anyone involved in Greenway design is advocating for children blindly walking into streets. Why adults seem to do this is another story. ( I have personally saved my California transplanted, adult neighbor from certain death as she steps off the curb into moving traffic, expecting drivers to stop for her as they do in California on numerous occasions. Phone and iPod users too. Mon Dieu!) I’m all for people taking responsibility to walk, ride and drive safely. In the 60’s large numbers of kids walked and biked to school unaccompanied by adults and got along just fine. I’m sure that the experts have the details of how this has changed since then so I’ll leave it to them to explain. But let’s not miss the point of my previous post.

    The issue that I raise is about a properly designed City roadway (Greenway) where speeds on the Greenway itself and crossing the Greenway are traffic calmed to speeds lower than 20MPH, a speed which is survivable 95% of the time (not slow enough IMHO) and allows greater reaction time in case of error on any one’s part. (Personally, I would advocate for “Home Zones” of 15MPH or less for neighborhoods as is done in other countries where livability is a key component of a desirable, great city, but that is a another project.)

    Portland, our progressive sister city to the south, has put 50 miles of Greenway on the ground in the past 3 years with a whopping success rate. For Seattle, the Wallingford Greenway is our first one — it’s less than two miles, yet our engineers are omitting the two essential components that distinguish it as a Greenway — speed bumps and stop signs controlling the crossings.
    We want the Greenway to be successful and appeal to the 60% of users not currently served by existing bike and sidewalk infrastructure.
    Happy walking and biking!

    Tue, November 1 at 1:45 pm
  12. iyqtoo said,

    I agree that speeds need to be lower in residential neighborhoods, though you can set limits anywhere you want, without enforcement they’ll be what they’ll be. For years I’ve been arguing that right-on-red is inappropriate in heavy ped areas. Nobody’s listening to me on that either.

    But if you’re suggesting that roadways that have been designed and constructed to carry motorized vehicles should be restricted to meet the needs of every adult Darwin Award winner on foot, I heartily disagree. At some point, people just have to take responsibility for their own safety.

    Wed, November 2 at 9:50 am
  13. Patrick said,

    Regarding cars speeding around traffic circles without looking, I spent my hour counting at 43 and Woodlawn, and not only did I see that, I saw FOUR cars go the wrong way on the one way stretch of Woodlawn that goes along the west side of Lincoln. And this was during school drop off hours! (I saw a bicyclist do the same – do bikes get to ignore some driving rules but not others?).

    Wed, November 2 at 10:47 am
  14. protected static said,

    @Patrick – no, they don’t. If bikes are on the street, they need to follow all driving rules.

    Cars pretty regularly go the wrong way down Latona and Thackeray, too. I’m just waiting for the day there’s a head-on between the 26 and someone going the wrong way.

    Wed, November 2 at 11:29 am

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